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February 21, 2008
Navy Missile Bullseyes Dead Satellite
In a remarkable technological achievement, the Navy successfully shot down a malfunctioning spy satellite in orbit.
At 10:29 p.m. last evening the Navy confirmed it hit a falling and potentially dangerous defense intelligence satellite using an SM-3 missile fired from the deck of the USS Lake Erie in the Northern Pacific. Officials say the missile likely destroyed its intended target, a 1,000 pound tank of toxic hydrazine fuel. The missile was designed to knock down incoming nuclear warheads not kill satellites. But the fact that it hit an object travelling at orbital velocity - around 17,000 MPH - is astonishing.
"There are good first indications the shot was successful. There was an explosion on impact and over 80 pieces of debris were detected after initial assessments," an official said.
The blast is a good sign because the warhead was non-explosive, meaning the explosion was most likely caused by hitting the gas tank.
The large amount of debris detected is also positive because it indicates they struck one of the satellite's more massive sections, and the tank is one of its largest.
There was some debate over whether it was really necessary to use the missile to shoot down the satellite. While probably not a life and death situation, it was the correct choice to deploy the technology. And, of course, it never hurts to let some world powers know that we have the capability to shoot down a satellite -especially after China demonstrated a capability to disable our birds via lasers.
And it never hurts to show nation's like Iran and North Korea, who are both developing ICBM capaibilities that could threaten the US mainland in less than a decade that it would be useless to launch against us.